How can an ad agency get faster and cheaper?

13 Dec

When we hired an MBA from the  University of Victoria to do an audit of our internal processes earlier this year, we couldn’t have imagined how thoroughly her findings and recommendations would change the way we work.

Our clients thought we took too long and were too pricey. To find out why, our researcher followed a typical job through the Copeland system. She concluded that we were an agency designed to handle half million dollar clients, and that we brought that mindset, and its accompanying degree of servicing, to virtually every job.

We didn’t stand a chance with smaller clients and one-off jobs. So we implemented some major changes.

The most important of these was to empower our art directors to project manage smaller jobs. Now, our clients can go straight to the art director for logos, one-off ads, design jobs, brochures…in other words, they can by-pass the agency suits and grey hairs (I guess that includes me).

Our art directors have templates of questions to ask, depending on the job. These enable them to estimate the cost and delivery time, open the job and then crack the artwork out. They alone are responsible for interacting with the client. Upon completion of the job, we send out a quick online survey to find out how the things went.

The results have been galvanizing. By reducing the number of people touching the job and eliminating SOWs and contact reports, the new model has allowed us to slash our costs and delivery time in half on many smaller jobs.

Of course it wouldn’t work if our art directors hadn’t stepped up to the plate and taken on the added responsibilities. On the evidence, they seem to like it. It gives them more contact with the clients and a different perspective on the business side of things.

As an ad agency, we always try to make things simple for our clients’ customers. Better late than never, we’ve made it simple for the clients too.

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2 Responses to “How can an ad agency get faster and cheaper?”

  1. Trevor Sellars December 14, 2009 at 12:50 pm #

    We’ve been through the same audit and analysis of our past business model(s) and in reality, we’ve remodeled the process many times in the past 20 years. We learned that we were doing far too many small jobs for clients we’d had for many years; these were costing us money that we could never recover and the work took too long and was too costly for most clients. We encouraged these clients to use the services of other firms (which we selected and recommended)–and they appreciated the advice. Some have returned with substantial projects that are an ideal fit to how we work best. The other key part of our process is to filter the work coming in and assigning the best expert to manage or redirect the project (often to other firms). We’ve found that clients seldom work effectively with art directors – who often aren’t results oriented (the clients – and the agency’s).

  2. dougbrowncreative December 14, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

    Thanks Trevor. Seems we’ve had quite different experiences with the model.
    > We were barely getting a sniff at the smaller jobs, often from within existing client relationships. Now we are and can deliver better value.
    > The jobs going straight to the art directors tend to be design jobs, where results aren’t the issue. When jobs come in that require strategy, we deploy other individuals, but those processes are also streamlined now. However – the relationships between the art directors and the clients has been outstanding so far.
    > I certainly agree that recommending another agency or design shop when you can’t handle the work for whatever reason is a good win!

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